Tag Archives: atheist

Kids Say the Darnedest Things?


I watched the young mom with her little boy on the screen and smiled.  Joyful to have survived the tornado with her son by running from her home at the last minute—something all the newscasters and locals said she shouldn’t have done—she had, miraculously, made a good decision.  When she returned 45 minutes later, she found her home flattened and her husband searching the debris for her and their son.  Now, the crisis over with a happy ending, she smiled, looking like every mother as she tried to hold her squirmy child.

As Wolf Blitzer tried to engage the little boy, his mom gave him openings to cooperate.  “How old are you?…Can you say ‘bye?’”

I giggled as I watched and thought of my own child when she was just a little older than the boy on the screen.  We had been playing in the back yard when our neighbor came out and tried to engage my daughter.  Like the woman on the screen, I had prompted her in numerous ways, but she sucked her thumb in stony silence.

My neighbor had just had her hair permed, and the results were a disaster—the kind you politely ignore even though you’re wondering, What was she thinking?  My daughter stared at her and refused to respond.  I smiled and said, “You know, I think it may take her a little while to get used to your new look.”

At that moment, my daughter finally opened her mouth to speak as I held my breath.  Eyes fixed on my neighbor’s hair, she blurted, “What did you doto your hair?” before sticking her thumb back into her mouth.

I gulped as my neighbor reached up to smooth down the curls that stuck out in unruly tufts.

“I got a perm today, sweetie,” she answered.

My daughter pulled her thumb from her mouth and pointed a finger toward the top of my neighbor’s head.  “Well…did you want it like that?”

My daughter had said exactly what I was thinking but would never say.  Stunned into silence, I tried to think of how to respond. I tried to be gracious and made a hasty exit with an excuse that it was almost time for dinner and for Daddy to get home.

And so, as I watched the mom on the television screen, I recognized her reaction right away.  But it wasn’t her child who made this mother squirm.  It was Wolf Blitzer, persisting in a line of questioning that was more inappropriate and unthinking than anything I’ve ever heard a child say to make a parent uncomfortable.

“Well, you’re blessed.  Brian, your husband, is blessed.”  At this point, the little boy, Anders, perks up and says, “Brian!”  But Blitzer forges on.  “Anders is blessed…I guess you’ve got to thank the Lord, right?”

She pulled her son forward to hide her face from the camera and mumbled, “Yeah.”

Blitzer, oblivious to her discomfort, went in with all the force of a bulldozer ready to clear the storm debris.  “Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

The mom tilted her head back and laughed slightly, stuttering, “I, I’m, I’m actually an atheist.”

Blitzer laughed, but he didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed to have made a false assumption.

As that mom laughed loudly, I belly-laughed and cheered her on.  Showing incredible grace, she bounced her son lightly and concluded, “We are here.  And I don’t blame anybody for thanking the Lord.”

I wish she hadn’t felt the need to qualify her beliefs.  Had their roles been reversed, I wonder how many Christians would have said to an atheist reporter, “You know, a lot of people died in this storm.  And I don’t blame anybody for questioning the existence of God.”

Not many, I suspect.   I wonder how many atheists who are otherwise just like their Christian neighbors would not have had this woman’s mettle because they’ve been taught by long experience to keep silent about beliefs that few accept.  I wonder, too, how many people will now make it their mission in life to try to get her to change her mind and convert.  And I find myself hoping that people will be as accepting of her views as she was of Wolf Blitzer’s.

Maybe it’s not a great idea to try to be friendly with a Wolf in newscaster’s clothing, but I respect her a lot for her grace in the face of a Wolf’s sharp teeth.

So how graceful are you when people make assumptions about your beliefs?  Tell me a story.

Surrounded By the Flood?

Rain in Front Yard

Surrounded by the flood?  Not yet.  But the electricity just flickered for the first time…and when an official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that we’re about to see a storm we’ve never seen before–a “billion dollar storm”–we pay attention.  So here’s the view from my front porch, and I’m wondering how many of those leaves–and those azalea flowers, which aren’t even supposed to be blooming at this time of year–will be left by this time tomorrow.
“Yeah, yeah,” you say, “you and everyone else in the path of Sandy are blogging about it while you still have electricity.”  And you’re probably right.  But I wonder how many of the people who’ll blog about this storm will read the Common Lectionary for the day and tilt their heads at the coincidence.
Here’s the thing:  I follow my church’s Common Lectionary to center myself at the beginning of each day.  (And I’ve recently started exploring the holy texts of some other faiths as well, and it’s surprising how often our texts tell similar stories or say the same thing in truly poetic ways.)  The Common Lectionary readings are chosen by leaders of a number of denominations as a two-year cycle of readings for personal reflection.  And the Old Testament reading today–chosen long ago as part of a two-year cycle–is from the Book of Jonah, and it says, in part:

“You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me….The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains.” (Jonah 2: 3, 5-6)

Now I don’t believe that God is some master puppeteer who is up in the ether pulling the marionette strings and watching us dance.  But that coincidence does make me tilt my head and go, Hmmm.  It makes for interesting conversation with my friends who are thinking evangelicals…and even my friends who are deeply reflective atheists.
One of my friends texted this to me recently after reading an earlier post:  “I still don’t know the who or even if I believe the ‘is’ of God, but I do know that my life is enriched by your existence in it.”  And I feel the very same way about her.  And I find that sort of honesty much more rational and logical than the false prophets who’ve been warning us for thousands of years that earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis are God’s punishment for our transgressions.
And so, my friends, at the end of this storm may we all find that the great is has kept us through the storm and that, as Jonah was spewed out onto dry land in today’s reading, so may we find ourselves–safe and dry.  And if we are not, may we dismiss those voices who point accusing fingers and arm ourselves with compassion and courage to face the aftermath of the flood.